How to Enter and Win at the Australian International Beer Awards

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Introduction

This is a 5-Step guide to help you craft an awesome entry into the 2018 Australian International Beer Awards (AIBAs).

(Full Disclosure – I am an AIBA judge and opinions in this post do not represent the views of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria or the AIBA.  I just want to see you do well this year.)

It’s a summary (mixed with smidge of opinion) of the AIBA Entry Booklet, which you should totally read.

Your beers and how well they are made are entirely up to you.

It’s that time of the year again.  Entries to the Australian International Beer Awards are now open (with exhibits due in late April) and you need to decide if your brewery will take part.

Winter usually follows the AIBAs too.

I highly recommend that your brewery/brewing company takes part in the AIBAs.  As I’ve said in previous posts, it’s a great way to get impartial feedback on your beer and learn ways to improve the quality of your product.

If you’re new here, you might want to also check out my previous post on The 7 Mistakes Brewers Make When Entering Beer Competitions. Enjoy!

Step 1 – Understand The Changes to the AIBAs in 2018

There are some really positive changes to the AIBAs this year.  These include:

Discontinuation of the Head Judge Role

In line with many other beer competitions around Australia and the world, the Head Judge role has been discontinued.

Traditionally, beers from the Head Judge’s brewery were not entered into the AIBAs so as to prevent any conflict of interest.

The downside of this is that over the last few years, beers from Little Creatures and Feral Brewing were not included in the competition.

These are some award-winning breweries who deserve the opportunity to have their beers appraised as much as any other.

So this change makes the competition more inclusive.

MRW everybody gets to enter the AIBAs.

The former duties belonging to the Head Judge now move to the AIBA Competition Coordinator and the Chief Steward.

Division of the Australian-style Pale Ale Class

This is also a positive move by the RASV.  With the rise of the modern, hoppier interpretations of Australian Pale Ale, the waters between that and Classic Australian Pale Ale became muddied.

So now there will be two Australian-style Pale Ale classes: 6A Classic Australian Pale Ale (think Cooper’s with it’s fruity yeast-derived esters) and 6B Australian-style Pale Ale (think Stone & Wood Pacific Ale with its fruity character coming from Australian hops).

Let the battle of the Classic Australian Pale Ales commence!

This split tips the cap at an historical Australian beer style whilst embracing newer interpretations of the style.

Removal of Other/Other Classes

A relatively minor procedural change.  All beers fit into an existing base style so the entrant has to nominate that style at the time of entry.

New Sub-Classes

Probably the biggest and most innovative change in this year’s AIBAs.

Over the last few years, as new beer styles emerge, it took many years for the style to be recognised with an appropriate style guideline being written.

For example, it took many years for Black IPA to be listed as a style but even then it was called “Cascadian Dark Ale”.

This year sees style guidelines that are currently trending in the beer market being able to be judged.  These include:

  • 4C – American Style Pilsner
  • 10C – options of Kellerbier or Zweickelbier, Leipzig-Style Gose, Contemporary Gose
  • 11D – options of New England IPA, Black IPA, Session IPA and New World IPA
  • 17F – Quadrupel

For the first time ever at the AIBAs, we’ll see Australia’s best NEIPAs go head to head.  Very exciting!

Changes to the Media Class

Last year saw not only blogs and traditional media entered into this class but also some no-so-easy-to-judge entries such as books and podcasts.

This year sees the word count limited to 2000 words with longer articles requiring a synopsis.

Step 2 – Select Which Beers to Enter

As I’ve said in previous posts, you need to carefully craft your AIBA entry based on a number of factors.  These include:

Which beers need to be submitted fresh.  How does your production plan look heading into the exhibit delivery cut off dates?

Cost.  Yes, you could enter every beer in keg and small-pack but consider the cost.

The presence of major quality issues.  Be honest with yourself …. Got a beer that’s blatantly of a poor standard?  Maybe have another crack next year.

Finally – consider whether it’s worth entering at all.  If you’re a new brewery, there’s a trophy for first time entrants called the “Gary Sheppard Award For Best New Exhibitor”.

Bob Ross knows that first time AIBA entrants are cool.

Maybe it might be best to put your best foot forward later rather than rushing into to competition now.

Step 3 – Carefully Select The Correct Class for Each Beer

One of the most common issues judges see that’s not related to common faults is beer that has been entered into an incorrect class.

When considering how your entry will look, don’t leave it to the Sales & Marketing department to put together your entry.

Get representatives of the brewing team as well as the Sales & Marketing team together to craft your entry.

Ignore what beer style is printed on your labels (because the judges never see your label) and look at each of your beers with regards to the Style Guidelines.

Sales/Marketing dept. Meet production dept <3

Don’t forget to note your beer’s ABV, Colour and Bitterness specification and how that matches with the style guideline.  Though it rarely (if ever) happens, your beer may be tested by a lab if it performs well and there is significant doubt.

Step 4 – Send Fresh Exhibits as Late as Possible

Closing dates for exhibits to arrive in Melbourne is 27 April.

If you’re a Melbourne-based brewer, you can deliver exhibits yourself at the RASV Showgrounds in Flemington as late as Friday 4 May.

Your job as brewer is to plan your production and packaging schedule so that your beer comes out of tank just in the nick of time.

Then you’ll need to organise appropriate freight to ensure your exhibits don’t miss the cut-off.

Remember – it’s up to 6 weeks between exhibits being open for delivery and judging.  There’s a 4 week window for deliveries to be received by the RASV.

Here’s a subtle hint on one way you can get your exhibits to the comp in a speedy manner.

Even though all exhibits are refrigerated whilst awaiting judging, time your delivery as late as you possibly can.

But don’t miss the cut off or else your entry will be scratched.

That way, your exhibits are stored by the RASV for as little as 5 days prior to judging.

Step 5 – Craft Your Entry For Trophy Winning Results

If you’re aiming to win big at this year’s AIBAs, then you need to make sure your entry is crafted in such a way that makes you eligible for one of the 22 the trophies that are on offer.

Who doesn’t miss Homestar Runner?

Champion Beer Class Trophies

There are 19 distinct beer classes in this year’s AIBAs.  Check the AIBA Handbook for the class definitions.

If your beer wins a gold medal, it will be presented to a panel of judges against other gold medal winning beers in the same class.

The beers are not re-assessed, rather, the judge is simply asked to rank each beer from best to least best.

These rankings are then used as a score basis to determine which exhibit becomes the trophy winning beer.

Beer Class Trophies rely solely upon your skill as a brewer so get on top of those quality processes.

Champion Australian and International Beer Trophies

This one’s pretty easy.

The votes from each of the Champion Beer Class trophies are tallied.

Highest scoring Australian and International beer win the trophy.

To win this trophy, you must have already won a beer class trophy.

Trophies for days!

Champion Small/Medium/Large Brewery Trophies

These trophies are on offer in Australian and International variants.

The determination of Small/Medium/Large is set by the brewer upon entry into the AIBAs.

  • Small Brewery <= 5,000hL production per annum,
  • Medium Brewery > 5,000hL and <= 25,000hL production per annum,
  • Large Brewery > 25,000hL production per annum.

To be eligible for these trophies, you must meet the following conditions:

  1. Be the operator and licensee of the brewery.
  2. Enter at least 4 beers.
  3. Win at least one gold medal.

Though the handbook doesn’t specify, the highest average of each brewery’s top 4 scoring beers determines the trophy winner.

Champion Gypsy Brewer Trophy

Gypsy brewers, since they are not the operator and licensee of the brewery where their product is made, are not eligible for Champion Brewery Trophies.

So the good people at the RASV created the Champion Gypsy Brewery Trophy in 2015 (though no gypsy brewer won the trophy until 2016).

Winning a trophy is cool. Bald guys with beards? ….not so much.

To be eligible for this trophy, you must meet the following conditions:

  1. Be an Australian Gypsy Brewer (sorry foreign gypsys),
  2. Declare in the entry that they qualify for the Champion Gypsy Brewer Award,
  3. You must not own the brewery where your product is produced,
  4. You must oversee the production of your product in your host brewery,
  5. Enter at least 2 beers in different classes,
  6. Win at least one gold medal.

The trophy is awarded on the highest average score across the top two scoring exhibits.

The Gary Sheppard Trophy for Best New Exhibitor

This is a pretty cool trophy that recognises the ever expanding landscape of the Australian beer scene.

Breweries only get one chance to have a crack at this trophy so make it count.

It’s pretty rad the new brewers get a chance for recognition of great work.

Here’s the requirements you need to meet to qualify for this trophy:

  1. You must indicate in your entry that your brewery is a first time entrant and eligible for the Gary Sheppard Trophy,
  2. You must be a brewery.  Gypsy brewers are ineligible for the Gary Sheppard Trophy,
  3. You must enter at least 2 beers in different classes,
  4. One of your beers must win a gold medal.

A tally of scores on each beer determines the winner.   7 points for Gold, 5 points for Silver and 3 points for Bronze.

I see the potential for a tie here.  Let’s see how that pans out.

Conclusion

Of course your brewery/brewing company should enter the Australian International Beer Awards!

But you can’t just blindly enter, set and forget.

It’s important that you craft your entry for maximum results, plan your production, get your quality systems up to scratch and plan your logistics for a late-as-possible arrival of your exhibits.

I also highly recommend attending the AIBA Presentation Dinner.  It’s like the Logies for beer and it’s a pretty fun night.

Good luck!

(Reminder: If you need assistance with crafting your entry into this year’s AIBAs, feel free to get in touch)

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